Monday, March 17, 2008

Crusaders outrun Cheetahs

The Crusaders have smashed the Cheetahs 55-7 in their Super 14 rugby match at AMI Stadium in Christchurch.
The home side, leading the Super 14 table, had the bonus try on the board by the 25th minute, running in five first half tries to lead 33-0 at the break and added a further four in the second half.

All five of the Crusaders first half tries went to the backs with Sean Maitland, Casey Laulala, Dan Carter, Leon Macdonald and Scott Hamilton getting on the scoresheet.
It was much the same in the second half as Hamilton and Laulala added second tries along with replacement back Caleb Ralph while hooker Ti'i Paulo was the only forward to get on the scoresheet.

Daniel Carter converted five tries while the only joy for the Cheetahs was an intercept try to Jongi Nokwe.


Cheetahs Skinned By Nine of the Best
March 15, 2008

The Crusaders have overwhelmed the Cheetahs 55-7 at AMI Stadium tonight to cement their position at the top of the Rebel Sport Super 14 standings.

On a mild night well suited to expansive rugby, the visiting South Africans were given a lesson as the Crusaders scored nine tries to one, to totally blow away a willing but seriously out-gunned opponent.

The Cheetahs were rocked almost from the opening minute, when Crusaders centre Casey Laulala was denied by the sideline chalk as he slid across for what would have been the home side’s first try.

While the flag of the assistant referee saved the Cheetahs then, the movement proved to be an ominous sign of what was to come – with the Crusaders collecting their try-scoring bonus point within 26 minutes, and having piled on five tries by halftime, where they led 33-0.

“We took away their belief early by shutting them out of the game, and that was important,” Crusaders coach Robbie Deans says.“By hitting them so hard in the opening minutes, it removed their hopes that they could win, and would no doubt have impacted on the enthusiasm they brought to the game.”

While the Cheetahs approached Christchurch having failed to win from their first four games, they had scored 11 tries during that period – the third best in the league, showing a particular liking for scoring from open play.

In the Crusaders, however, they met the master of that particular class; with the visitors simply unable to cope with the quick recycling skills, and the width of the field attack, that the home side employed.

“We always felt that if we could keep the ball going, and move their big men around, they’d struggle to combat it,” Crusaders skipper Richard McCaw says. “I was really pleased with the way we started. We muscled up early and got on the front foot. Because of that, it was always going to be difficult for them.”

The speed of the Crusaders recycle did for the Cheetahs in the team’s opening try, with 19-year-old winger Sean Maitland being given a clear run to the line after a super cut-out pass from fullback Leon MacDonald.

It proved to be a recurring theme of the night.

Although Laulala was denied in the opening minute, the Cheetahs couldn’t dodge a second bullet in the 16th minute, when Daniel Carter poked a kick in behind the fast advancing defensive line, which the Crusaders centre won the race to for the try.

Try number three came in the 19th minute when a Cheetahs attack broke down on halfway, and Crusaders halfback Andrew Ellis hacked the ball down field.

Although players from both sides converged on the bobbling ball near the Cheetahs line, it ended up spewing back over the goal-line where Carter was first to it, and claimed the prize.

MacDonald then wrapped up the bonus point in the 26th minute, supporting a jinking run by Stephen Brett that opened up the Cheetahs defence.

Unfortunately the break was Brett’s last positive act in the game as he injured the AC joint in his shoulder shortly afterwards.

The damage has been diagnosed as a “medium term” injury, which could mean a period of eight weeks or more on the sidelines for the talented Crusaders pivot.

Even in Brett’s absence, the visitors were still under the pump, and the Cheetahs didn’t help themselves just before halftime when they lost a lineout on their own throw.

The mistake was duly punished by the Crusaders, who again out-flanked the visitors with the speed of their recycle, which allowed winger Scott Hamilton to post a try against the South African team for the third straight season.

It was Hamilton who obliged again immediately after halftime.

The try was practically a replay of his first effort; with the Cheetahs again left gasping by the speed of the Crusaders recycle as the home side advanced from the 33-0 halftime lead to 38-0.

As the second half progressed, the game predictably lost its shape with the contest effectively settled, and the mistake rate grew.

It was from one of these that the Cheetahs gained their only points, with the speedy winger Jongi Nokwe correctly anticipating an ambitious pass from Crusaders prop Wyatt Crockett, latching onto the ball to claim an easy try.

There was still time for three more tries in the final quarter, with Crusaders hooker Ti’i Paulo celebrating his first ever start, by scoring in the corner after another strong team build-up.

Laulala added a second, en-route to taking the team’s internal Player of the Day award; while Caleb Ralph also chimed in to claim the 57th of his Super rugby career, moving to within two of the competition record held by Doug Howlett.

The injury to Brett was a dampener, but the rest of the Crusaders side emerged from the game unscathed.

The team’s resources will even be bolstered for the Good Friday visit of the NSW Waratahs as winger Kade Poki is expected to be available again following his hamstring injury.

“Next week is a great opportunity, but we’ll get to work on that tomorrow,” Deans says.“For now, we have put in a pretty good performance, and it’s important that we enjoy the moment. The guys have earned that!”

The five points the Crusaders secured – their fourth try-scoring bonus point from five starts – also furthered the team‘s buffer at the top of the standings, especially after the previously third placed Blues were upset 17-27 by the Western Force at Albany earlier in the day.

At AMI Stadium, Christchurch, March 15
Crusaders: Tries by Casey Laulala (2), Scott Hamilton (2), Sean Maitland, Daniel Carter, Leon MacDonald, Ti’i Paulo and Caleb Ralph; 5 conversions by Carter.
Cheetahs: Try by Jongi Nokwe; conversion by Conrad Barnard.

Halftime: Crusaders 33, Cheetahs 0
Referee: Paul Marks (Australia)
Crowd: 15,000


Towards 5000
March 14, 2008

The Crusaders are fast closing in on becoming the first team in Super rugby history to break the 5000-point barrier.
As the side awaits tomorrow night's visit of the Cheetahs to AMI Stadium, the Crusaders require just a further 91 points to pass this milestone.
So far on the 13th Crusade, the side has accumulated 139 points from four outings at an average of 34.75 per match.....

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